As of the date of this post, the Department of Labor passed the Family’s First Coronavirus Response Act (CCRFA), which expands sick leave entitlements under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to certain employees affected by the COVID-19 epidemic. These employees may be entitled to additional leave for their own care and protection or for their family members under certain circumstances. The CCRFA has record keeping requirements as well. However, the CCRFA provides a small business exemption. Consult with counsel to determine whether you can qualify based on the size of your business.
Consider whether it makes more sense to strategically use employee leave and other cut-backs. Employers can opt to other alternatives instead of termination. Such plans bring up many questions about continuing to offer benefits, whether COBRA coverage has to be instituted, or if some other plan makes sense. Your ability to change employee schedules is subject to the at-will status of your employees. We urge you to consult with counsel when developing and instituting such a plan.
For “essential workers” still working, to what extent must the employer accommodate their safety and working conditions under the epidemic? You may need to take reasonable precautions or face liability.
If you have to shut down, do you have to provide your employees any special notice or accommodation? California recently passed changes to the Cal-WARN Act, which provides changes to the notice requirements for larger employers who must shut down or issue a mass layoff during the epidemic. Again, the size of the company is important, and we can help you determine whether this applies to your company. Keep in mind cities and counties are also issuing their own special orders and regulations under COVID-19.
Choosing to layoff, furlough or otherwise cut back on your payroll is never without risk, and litigious employees may cry foul with respect to discrimination or they may use it as an opportunity to air grievances. Employers need to take care to terminate, layoff and furlough their employees fairly and without wrongful discrimination. Our office can help you navigate the process and reduce risks.
Castleton Law Group
17800 Castleton Street, Suite 630, City of Industry, California 91748